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School districts making cancellation calls on a day-by-day basis

| Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010

With more than 2 feet of snow on the ground and more than six inches predicted for today, school administrators have to decide whether or not to close schools in order to ensure student safety.

Local schools were closed Monday and Tuesday. Yesterday, Fay-West school officials decided also to close today. Administrators remain uncertain about closing for the rest of the week. Weather conditions will determine closures.

James Lembo, transportation director for the Connellsville Area School District, said the district has been taking the inclement weather day by day. "We respond to what the weather does. We wait and see what happens. We can't say if we'll be closed all week because we don't know what the weather will be."

The amount of snow on the ground and low temperatures preventing its melting have challenged municipal officials and school maintenance personnel trying to clear roads and parking lots.

"It's still a day-to-day thing," Gary Brain, superintendent of the Laurel Highlands School District, said. "The side roads have not been cleared, there is black ice, and with all the snow plowed along the roads, there are no places for the kids to stand safely while waiting for the buses."

As for the possibility of opening Laurel Highlands schools this week, "I'm skeptical at best. With 6 to 10 inches on top of this that we already have, I'm very skeptical about the next few days."

"Right now, we don't know about school for the rest of the week," Terry Struble, superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Area School District, said. "We know the forecast. Until it starts to come, we can't make a decision. We need to take into account student safety and what our drivers can do. I would love to be more definite, but we're taking it day to day."

Students may be thrilled with their unexpected time off, but the snow days must be made up. State law requires that schools be in session for 180 days by June 30. Michael Race, director of press and communications with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, said the department will not offer a blanket waiver of the 180 school days requirement.

"The way the waiver process works, the districts apply for the waiver. Most districts end in early or mid-June, so if they need to tack on extra days, they have a buffer."

School administrators and school directors work together to determine when snow make-up days will be scheduled. Directors have to vote to add the days to the school district's calendar.

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